Here we present unique perspectives from undergraduate students (n=3) in STEM who have taken both a traditional laboratory iteration and a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) iteration of the same introductory chemistry course. CUREs can be effective models for integrating research in courses and fostering student learning gains. Via phenomenological interviews, we asked students to describe the differences in their perspectives, feelings, and experiences between a traditional lab guided by a lab manual and a CURE. We found that (i.) critical thinking/problem solving, (ii.) group work/collaboration, (iii.) student-led research questions and activities, and (iv.) time management are the top four emergent themes associated with the CURE course. Students also indicated that they learned more disciplinary content in the CURE, and, importantly, that they prefer it over the traditional lab. These findings add another dimension of success to CUREs in STEM education, particularly surrounding student retention.


STEM undergraduate education, best practices, transmittal lecture, discipline-based education research, phenomenological theoretical framework

Author Bio(s)

Amie Sommers, M.S., is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska pursuing a degree in discipline-based education research. Her interests include mixed methods research-based approaches to understanding complex challenges related to undergraduate life science curricula and programming. Please direct correspondence to amie.sommers@huskers.unl.edu.

Dana Richter-Egger, Ph.D., is the Director of the Math and Science Learning Center (MSLC) and professor of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Dr. Richter-Egger is actively involved in learning strategies that support inclusive learning for all science majors and continues to lead STEM-based initiatives that expand into the Omaha community. Please direct correspondence to drichter-egger@unomaha.edu.

Christine Cutucache, Ph.D., is the Haddix Community Chair of Science, Associate Professor of Biology, and Director of the STEM Teaching, Research, and Inquiry-based Learning Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her research interests surround comprehensive student support mechanisms and active learning strategies, to include experiential learning practices such as research, for undergraduates. Please direct correspondence to ccututcache@unomaha.edu.


We would like to thank Dr. Josh Darr, Dr. JJ Conrad, Dr. Alan Gift, Nikolaus Stevenson, and Amanda Shultz for their thoughts and contributions to data collection. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the Nebraska University Foundation, Dr. George Haddix, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha Community of Practice support from the Center for Faculty Excellence (Dr. Karen Hein) for the support of this project.

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